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This is a letter I have written to any of our Frontline Moms subscribers who happen to be homeschool families.

Please share this with your homeschool friends.  Here is a print friendly version.

FLM Homeschool post open letterAn Open Letter to My Fellow Homeschool Parents

by Lisa Cherry

As a homeschool mom of 25 years with ten kids, I am writing today to express my concern for the safety of my fellow homeschooling families, the protection of our freedom to homeschool, and my own personal reputation as a homeschooler. Like many of you, I am both heartbroken and disturbed by the recent alleged sexual scandals involving Vision Forum and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles.  I join with all those praying for the recovery of those who were affected.

As sexual abuse allegations within these ministries have attracted media attention, I am also greatly concerned about how these scandals could negatively impact all of us in the homeschool community. Please allow me to share with you seven vulnerabilities and nine suggestions for action in light of recent developments. (Since the nightmare of sexual abuse happened to our own family, it’s an issue that’s very close to my heart.)

 

 

 

Potential Vulnerabilities of Home School Families

1.  Misperception That Our Homes and Families Are Immune

After our own 15-year-old daughter was abused by a 46-year-old man in our congregation, we ended up in a jury trial. I still cringe when I remember how the prosecution portrayed our family and Kalyn as being "naive" about these issues. It also shook me to realize that, perhaps, in some ways he was right. We should have been aiming to be as "shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves" (Matthew 10:16, NASB). With one in four girls, and one in six boys, being sexually abused in America by the age of eighteen, it was naive to believe we were somehow immune to risk.

2.  Lack of Sexual Abuse Prevention Education

I am the first to admit that while Doug and I thought we had taken all the necessary steps to protect our family from sexual abuse, we were sadly misinformed. We were ignorant, before it happened to us, of the deceptive power of the grooming behaviors employed by abusers; and we believed that our family members—adults and kids alike—were too "smart" to be tricked. In researching how to help our wounded daughter, we discovered important keys that we now use to protect the rest of our kids.

3. Suspicious Behaviors

When people appear to be "hiding" or "protecting" known abusers, they bring suspicion upon themselves. No one wants to ever falsely accuse someone of sexual misconduct. However, once an accusation has been validated, we must establish an environment that encourages truth-telling, if victims are to heal and others are to be protected. If we silence or soften the truth, or  allow leaders  who have fallen into sexual sin to remain in their positions simply because they are good teachers, we contribute—either accidentally or intentionally—to the culture of grooming and lies.

4. Lax Attitudes and Systems

Mandatory reporting and sexual abuse prevention systems are the norm in schools and other institutions now, and rightly so. Because of some very public legal cases, and the increased liability of churches, schools and organizations, sexual abuse policies are much more strictly enforced nowadays. If we, as homeschoolers, do not also deal with this issue in a similarly forthright manner, we could appear to be negligent. This could attract further attention to us in two ways: (1) Child abusers will target our kids as easy marks, and (2) The homeschooling community will be under greater scrutiny in a way that invites regulation.

5. Public Perception

Homeschoolers are frequently viewed as a single group, implying that our community is ripe with such predators. In every article I have read on the ministries mentioned above, the media has emphasized that they are "homeschool leaders." In my experience, most people in education, media, government, and social services do not understand homeschoolers. Recently Michael Farris, president of HSLDA, issued a strong statement clarifying that we’re distinct individuals, and countering these misperceptions. While commenting on his recent interview in World News Daily condemning the actions of Doug Philips, Mr. Farris said on his Facebook page, "I have admitted my errors in failing to speak out....I am convinced that this [patriarchal] movement is harmful to people—children, women, and even men who buy into these deceptive ideas. The freedom of the homeschooling movement is threatened if this kind of dangerous legalism is allowed to become the dominant view. I have tried to distance myself quietly and imperfectly for a long time. I am now convinced that I need to be forthright and say out loud what I have thought for a long time....It would be easy to contend that Doug's sin was separate from his patriarchy views. I am saying the opposite. His views of women were integral to his actions." (April 15)

Mr. Farris's statements are strong and clear. But, sadly, it will be hard to counter the hostile public perceptions created by these scandals.

6.   Unnoticed Actions

The alleged immoral acts within these ministries appear to have gone unchecked for years. Surely someone saw something that caused concern.  But in their “trust” of the ministry leaders, most did what is all too common: they ignored or discounted what they saw. (Or perhaps they were ill-equipped to interpret what they observed.) This is truly unfortunate. The protective systems within these ministries were either inadequate, or they simply failed.

7.  Hostility toward the Homeschool Community Is Increasing

Online responses to these stories are flying—especially by those hostile to homeschooling. Honestly, I had not paid any attention to these anti-homeschooling voices until I saw them chiming in during the aftermath of these ministry scandals. But they are very real and very vocal. The implication that we, as homeschoolers, might need to be "watched more closely" is alarming. I do not want to dignify these comments further by providing a link, but I have seen them on several sites, and it is frightening. The hostile momentum that’s building—driven by those who would love to stop homeschooling or deeply regulate it—could be devastating to us all.

 

So what can we do, in the face of these challenges?

 

 

 

 

9 Suggestions that I Believe Are Critical

1.  Pull Our Heads Out of the Sand

We can’t ignore this issue any longer. We must address it, both personally and publicly. The problem of sexual abuse crosses all segments of society. We are not statistically at greater risk; but neither are we immune. (I have heard the stories from other affected homeschool families myself!) We must be willing to understand and confront our own unique set of risks.

2. Intentionally Include Sexual Abuse Training in Our Homeschools

The best abuse prevention for children is well-informed, alert adults. Parents must make the effort to study sexual issues that are prevalent in our society and dangerous to our kids. Read our story to see how we were tricked. Then do what it takes to launch your own protective strategy.  (Click here to find resources to help.)

3. Address the Issue of Sexual Abuse with Your Homeschool                   Co-op/Support Group

 

I suggest we launch a strategic effort to educate our families. It would not be that difficult. (Click here for recommended materials.) Homeschool group meetings on this topic could prevent a great deal of pain. At the same time, our homeschool co-ops need to review their own policies. Just as wise churches screen their own children's and youth workers, we should also. A good system of prevention is one of the best deterrents to abuse. Let's improve our own accountability so we are always above reproach.

4. Be Clear in Labeling Abuse as Abuse

We must call sexual abuse by its real name. Abuse is not limited to just rape or molestation. Here is an official definition from a reputable Christian book on the topic:

"Sexual abuse is any contact or interaction (visual, verbal, or psychological) between a child/adolescent and an adult (or older teen) when the child/adolescent is used for the sexual stimulation of the perpetrator or another person." (Dan Allender, The Wounded Heart: Hope for Adult Victims of Childhood Sexual Abuse)

 

Let's face it: the term sexual abuse is loaded and ugly. So often people try to mislabel abuse as "inappropriate behavior" or an “indiscretion" or "immorality" to help remove its stigma.  But renaming something just confuses the issue at hand and prevents us from dealing with the reality of its dangers. Children and youth who have been damaged by abuse—even if the abuse seems "minor" to us—will often live their lives through the lens of that experience; and frequently make poor relationship and spiritual choices as they mature. They need our help for recovery.

5.  Support Organizations Fighting To Protect Us

We believe it is vital for homeschool families to stand together in this difficult hour, as we respond wisely to policies and laws that could challenge our freedoms. We must actively support those who stand up for our families. But while the legal teams have been wonderfully responsive to our homeschool community needs over the years, we must also recognize that they are only able to help us collectively when we choose to take personal responsibility. In other words, sometimes we need to take the initiative to police ourselves in private.....before they must represent us in public.

6. Permanently Remove from Your Group Or Sphere of Acquaintances Any Sexual Offenders

 

It seems like this would go without saying, but it does not. In the world's eyes, sexual offenders are considered "non-reformable," due to the nature of their problems. As believers in Jesus Christ, we know that God can deliver people from very complex problems. So, often, in our efforts to show mercy to these perpetrators, we give people the benefit of the doubt. We allow them second chances. Unfortunately, this has proven disastrous in many cases.

 

I propose that anyone who is truly repentant and reformed of sexually abusing a child should have no problem being under accountability, limits, and supervision. They would acknowledge their own risk for relapse, and not put themselves in a position where they could be even falsely accused.

 

Just as wise leaders would never send a former alcoholic into bars to do ministry, former abusers should never be entrusted with children alone. (This applies to families, as well as ministries.)

7.  Pray

The battle of sexual abuse is part of the spiritual warfare being waged against this generation. Pornography has simply taken that fight to a new level. As believers, we recognize that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood here, but with powers and principalities and rulers of wickedness in high places (see Ephesians 6:12). The battle over protecting our children, and leading them to purity amidst a perverse generation, will be won or lost on our knees. Pray for your kids. Pray for all our kids. Maintain holy alertness in accordance with Ephesians 6:18. Intercede for your leaders. Receive from the Lord the wisdom you will need in this hour. And most importantly, please pray for the healing of families who have already been affected by abuse.

8.  Support Your Local Church Leaders

It is amazing to me when I hear church members complaining about protection policies implemented by local church leaders. Sure, I long for the "good ole days" when we didn't have to be so careful. But those days are truly gone, and it is time we adapt. Extra staffing and volunteers will be needed. Are we willing to sacrifice our time to serve? Our pastors and leaders deserve our support as they do their best to protect our families.

9. Pass This Letter On to a Homeschooling Friend

Together, we can take the steps necessary to protect our families...but only if enough of us are on board. Would you consider forwarding this article to 10 of your homeschooling friends? Would you consider sharing it on your social media site, posting it on your blog (link available at www.FrontlineMoms.com) passing it on to your homeschool group? Let's stand together as a community and continue to make homeschooling the safest option for our kids!

Related post: Why We Called the Police and Why You Should Also

Update: Almost 30,000 homeschool families have seen An Open Letter to My Fellow Homeschooling Families: Sexual Predator Accusations Among Homeschoolers?  Lisa will be doing further updates on this topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cherry family ch_ 12

Lisa & Doug Cherry are speakers who travels across the nation addressing parents, teens, and Christian leaders on the growing spiritual culture war. They are the parents of ten, grandparents of four and have enjoyed homeschooling their family for the last twenty-six years. Lisa is also the author of Not Open: Win the Spiritual Culture War and Unmask the Predators.  Her articles have appeared in The Christian Post, World Net Daily, cbn.com, and more. For additional information about Lisa, go to www.frontlinefamilies.org; and find her on her Facebook page.

Lisa will be a featured speaker at the following upcoming events:

June 12-14
Alabama Homeschool Expo
Montgomery, Alabama
Toll-Free: 1-888-553-8914

July 24-26, 2014
Southeast Homeschool Expo
Cobb Galleria Centre
Roswell, Georgia
Atlanta Area: 770-594-1266
Toll-Free: 1-888-264-7763

 

 

Love Dare for Parents 668524_w185By Lisa Cherry

Have you seen it yet??? I am SO excited!

At our POTTS meeting last night, my dear friend Deanna brought in the new book The Love Dare for Parents. I skimmed it last night, and I am ordering it tomorrow!!!

This book is built on the phrases of 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7. It breaks the teaching down to a small chapter and action point for 40 days of love for your child. Also, it includes access to an online free parent assessment.

Wow, this book looks like the beginning of a new day for many relationships. Without the heart of our children turned to us through a relationship of love, our instruction, correction, and even our testimony will be of little effect.

Hey, I'm getting my copy and starting right away. Anyone want to join me?

Message me here in the comments!

This is going to be exciting!

Tough Times with Kids

Lisa Cherry —  June 24, 2013 — 1 Comment

Nathan wheelchair (3)By Lisa Cherry

I am in the car today driving to Mayo Clinic up in Minnesota.

Not how I planned this beautiful day in June, but I am grateful to be here.

Our oldest son Nathan has been suffering from a mystery illness since April and it is past time for some answers. The picture of him in the wheelchair at Disney World on our annual family vacation a couple weeks ago needs to be retired into the archives!

Tough times. It seems in this life none of us are exempt from them.

And when they happen to your kids, they are especially difficult.

Even when your son is 28, married and has three young children of his own, the parent heart is still the same. We want the pain to stop!

How we walk through tough seasons depends so much on us though, does it not?

Through this family trial, I have been drawn back once again to the foundations of my relationship with the Lord.

He is here…walking with us, leading us through this valley to the other side.

I can either rest in that and walk without fear, or look at my circumstances—my current Goliath—and fall into torment. I have come to learn that the choice is mine.

What about you today? Are you walking in His place of trust?

The longer I parent my children, the more I realize I cannot bear their pains for them. That can seem like a helpless position until I realize they each do have a great heavenly Dad who can bear their pain! So the best help I can probably ever be to my kids is to demonstrate a life of confident trust.

So here I sit in my car......enjoying the scenery on a road I never really hope to travel again, singing a little song in my heart KNOWING my God has my son's case well in hand.

(But hey, I sure would appreciate your prayers of agreement also!)

Blessings,

Lisa

failure success streetsigns meZaC80By Lisa Cherry             

My daughter Hannah was at a crossroads.  As high school junior taking her first college course, she wanted to succeed. She had only hours before the final draft of her essay was due.

But no matter how many changes and upgrades she had made, it was not looking good for Hannah's grade.

The teacher did not like her argument that the children’s book King and King depicting homosexual marriage and homosexual kissing should be banned from public school classrooms.

I had emailed the teacher asking for some clarification of her expectations. I did not hear back from her that day.

That is when the most important thing happened in this long drama. Sure, it had been good for Hannah to have to learn to argue and defend her faith views in a hostile environment. It had been good that Hannah had learned to approach her college professor humbly asking for more help to complete the project satisfactorily. But now it was time for the big question.

"Hannah," I began my response to the now crying teen, "What is the worst thing that could happen to you with this assignment?"

"Mom, I could fail it and ruin my first semester in college!" was her impassioned response.

"No Hannah. That is not the worst thing. The worst thing is that you could fail to honor the Lord, cave in under the pressure, and change your views!" I responded.

"Yeah, you are right, I guess," she quietly agreed.

Then I helped her to play out the worst case scenario in her mind. Did you know one of the best ways to defeat fear and walk in courage is to imagine your worst fears and see what the Lord can do even with them?

Here is what we determined was worst case:

Hannah fails the class. Gets a bad grade. Has to take the class over. Pays extra money. Works extra hard. And has to explain to people why she failed freshman English.

OK. None of that would be fun. But if people can die for their faith, couldn’t we endure all those pesky hardships?  They sound like “light and  momentary troubles” by comparison. 

Suddenly, I became keenly aware of the benefits of a little persecution!! We were truly learning to stand on what we had always said we believed to be true!

How about you and your kids? How will you handle the pressures in schools, workplaces, and the community? Do you have the courage to suffer....even just a little for the cause of Christ??

Are you sharing this series with your kids? It is a great training ground. Next time, we will conclude with the teacher's final comments on the paper and....the grade!

Image Source:  Sigurd Decroos

Gratefully linked to  Modest Mondays

You can find the other parts of this series here:

What to Do if Your Christian Child is Persecuted Part 1
What Would You Have Done? Part 2: What to do if Your Christian Child is Persecuted

How Much Should we Intervene? Part 3: What to Do If Your Christian Child is Persecuted

Would My Response Backfire? Part 4: What to Do if Your Christian Child is Persecuted

Studying 2302027163_675bfed1a6By Lisa Cherry

How much should we as parents intervene if our children are suffering persecution for their faith? When our daughter Hannah faced pressure in school from a teacher who disapproved of Hannah's Biblical views on homosexuality and gay marriage, that question came to center stage in our home.

Click here to catch up on the story line.... 

Well, here is what I chose to do for Hannah initially....

I encouraged her to stay in the battle, honor her teacher, and work even harder to fulfill the teacher's requirements. As I listened to the wisdom of the Lord, I sensed this would be a significant faith event that would test our daughter's ability to stand.

In fact, of all my children, Hannah is one of the most impassioned to stand for Biblical values in the midst of a hostile culture. This was, in essence, a test of the multi-year training she had received from the dynamic programs called Lightbearers and Understanding the Times from Summit Ministries.  I posted on these here, and  now count them  as essential for kids of today.

Now as sure as I share with you what I did when Hannah faced this kind of teacher challenge, I must caution you that my answer may not be the right answer for every teen and every family.

The stakes are high when our kids are exposed to teachers and authorities who seem intent on winning a convert to their political/moral/ethical/faith point of view. That is why over 80% of our young people walk away from their faith as they leave our homes!

So, it is right that I was not happy that this teacher seemed more concerned with changing Hannah's views than lining up her grammar! And it could have been right for me to remove her from that pressure if I thought it could crush her or damage her.

But Hannah needed to fight this battle herself, I figured. However, I became keenly aware that without me standing behind her, she could have had a disaster. She was in such a vulnerable spot looking for affirmation from her first college experience. I was sobered.  

She had practiced the reasoning and worked with opposing worldviews and still this was very hard. So she added more and more and more research going way beyond the minimum requirements of the assignment and taking extra submissions to attempt to fix the "problems."

Here is a sample of the teacher's comments (some of which were genuinely helpful) that tipped me over to consider a new action. Hannah received this AFTER she had already made many changes to satisfy the paper requirements. Take a look.

What do you see here? And what would you do next?

Hannah,

You clearly introduce the topic, but the introduction lacks an attention getter.  Your thesis is clear and specific. You make clear points, but the paper lacks actual evidence to support some of those points. You provide one quote about the impact of gender confusion but do not provide any evidence from research to connect reading a book about homosexual characters to gender confusion.  You make some pretty inflammatory claims. For example, you equate a book about a homosexual couple to books about making bombs and taking drugs. A book about a homosexual couple is more like a book about a couple of different races.   Your paper ignores the evidence of the opposing viewpoint.  You cannot simply ignore the evidence and pretend it does not exist. For example, a preponderance of scientific research has found that homosexuality is an inherent trait, not a choice. How will you respond to that evidence.  Teachers introduce and assign books every day that contain ideas that conflict with the personal views or beliefs of parents. For example my son was forced to read Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, which justifies greed and selfishness. It didn't make him selfish or greedy. Exposure to ideas in a classroom do not generally undermine the values one is taught at home. Where is the evidence that it does?  Your paper suggests that teaching tolerance is a bad thing. Why would it be bad for a kindergarten or first grade teacher who has a student who has two dads or two moms in her room to bring this book in to teach tolerance? Tolerance is different from acceptance.  You also cite three different sources that are pretty old (2001, 2005, 2008).  Is the information still relevant and accurate?  These are just some things for you to think about as you make revisions. Essentially, you need to remember you are not preaching to the choir. You are trying to convince an audience that includes people who disagree with you and people who have yet to form an opinion of your viewpoint. Therefore, you must consider their views and beliefs in forming your argument. You have chosen a challenging topic and I commend you for taking on the challenge. I think you have made improvements to the paper, but at points your logic falls apart.

Photo courtesy of MC Quinn

Gratefully linked to Works for Me Wednesday   Encourage One Another   Titus 2sdays

You can find the first two posts in this series here:

What to Do if Your Christian Child is Persecuted Part 1

What Would You Have Done? Part 2: What to do if Your Christian Child is Persecuted